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10 Must See Places to Visit in New Zealand

New Zealand is my beautiful country and I’m very proud to be a kiwi. We are lucky to have diverse landscapes, stunning natural beauty, and a rich cultural heritage here. If you're planning a trip to New Zealand and are looking for some tips from someone who lives here then you've found it! I want to share 10 suggestions for the best places to visit and fun activities as you travel through  New Zealand.


1. Auckland

Start your journey in the vibrant city of Auckland. Explore the Sky Tower for panoramic views, visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum, take a ferry to Waiheke Island for wine tasting and scenic walks or take a drive out to Piha Beach renowned for its wild waves and black sand.

 View of Piha Beach

2. Bay of Islands

For a picturesque coastal experience, visit the Bay of Islands. Take a boat tour to see the famous Hole in the Rock, go dolphin watching, and explore historic sites such as Russell and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where you can learn about NZ history in a traditional Maori Meeting House.


3. Rotorua

Known for its geothermal wonders, Rotorua offers unique experiences such as visiting bubbling mud pools, hot springs, the famous Pohutu geyser and Government Gardens. Don’t miss the Maori cultural performances and a traditional hangi feast. Lake Taupō and Tongariro National Park are also nearby and well worth a visit if you have time.


4. Wellington

The capital city, Wellington, is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene. Explore Te Papa Museum, stroll along the waterfront, check out the Beehive (New Zealand’s Parliament building) and take a ride on the iconic Wellington Cable Car for panoramic views. From Wellington you can catch the ferry to the South Island.

 The Beehive, Wellington


5. Abel Tasman National Park

Head to the South Island’s Abel Tasman National Park for stunning coastal scenery, golden beaches, and hiking trails. Take a kayaking tour, go on a scenic cruise, or hike the renowned Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Abel Tasman National Park


6. Kaikoura

A coastal town situated on the eastern shore of the South Island of New Zealand. It is known for its abundant marine life, particularly whales, dolphins, and seals, making it a prime spot for wildlife encounters. Visitors can enjoy activities such as whale watching, swimming with dolphins, and sampling delicious seafood while taking in the picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and ocean.


7. The West Coast of the South Island

A stunning region known for its rugged beauty and untouched wilderness. Explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Southern Alps, where glaciers meet lush rain forests. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, where you can witness dramatic blow holes and towering limestone formations along the coastline. Lake Matheson is another beautiful place renowned for its breathtaking mirror-like reflections of the Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand’s tallest mountain) and the surrounding Southern Alps. There is also the wonderful Reflectionz Cafe and Gallery that stocks my art prints! See my Lake Matheson print here.


8. W ānaka

My hometown lies on the shores of Lake Wānaka in the Southern Alps. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities such as hiking, skiing, and water sports. With its stunning mountain scenery, vibrant arts scene, and delicious local cuisine, Wānaka is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. I would recommend a bike ride around the lake shore, a hike up Roy’s Peak or a day trip into Mt Aspiring National Park to walk the Rob Roy Glacier track. There is fantastic shopping, galleries and restaurants in Wānaka. I may be biased but my favourite is a design store is Wonder Room where you can browse a treasure trove of goodies from designer souvenirs to home wares, and art including my very own creations

 Rob Roy Glacier

9. Queenstown

A one hour drive over the stunning Crown Range is Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of New Zealand. Try bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, or take a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu. There is also great hiking, skiing, shopping and restaurants in Queenstown. Make sure you take the quick 20 minute drive to Arrowtown - a charming gold rush era village which is especially beautiful in Autumn.

 Queenstown New Zealand

10. Milford Sound

Journey to the breathtaking Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Take a cruise through the fiord, marvel at the towering waterfalls and dramatic cliffs, and keep an eye out for seals, dolphins, and penguins. Book you accommodation in nearby Te Anau. Check out my itinerary for a 3 day trip to this beautiful and remote place

There are so many other places that are less well known but absolutely worth a visit if you have time. Here are some that come to mind... Raglan, New Plymouth and Gisborne in the North Island are well known for great surfing but are also just nice to visit because they're cool towns. Christchurch is interesting with it's mix of old and new architecture as it continues to rebuild after major earthquakes. Aoraki Mt Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain and has great walks and glacier flights. I love Dunedin - its a compact city known for its rich Scottish heritage and stunning Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Its home to Otago University which gives the whole city a young, hip vibe. Dunedin also boasts beautiful natural attractions, such as the Otago Peninsula, where you can observe wildlife, including penguins, seals, and albatrosses, in their natural habitats. Also, south of Dunedin is the Catlins which is a remote but very beautiful place with a lighthouses, waterfalls and a petrified forest! Oh and one more amazing place is of course Stewart Island with its abundant fishing and viewing the kiwi bird in the wild!!


Additional tips:

New Zealand has a temperate climate, but weather can change rapidly, so pack layers and be prepared for all conditions.

Driving is a popular way to explore the country, but remember to drive on the left side of the road.

Outdoor activities like hiking and camping are popular, so make sure to bring suitable gear and be mindful of safety guidelines.

New Zealand is known for its clean and green environment, so help preserve it by following eco-friendly practices.

New Zealand offers something for everyone, whether you’re seeking adventure, natural beauty, or cultural experiences. Enjoy your journey!


By Bridget Hall, artist from Wanaka, New Zealand. Many of my artworks depict beautiful places that you may see as you travel through NZ. They are available in a range of sizes and can be shipped free worldwide to your home address.